New Year

Wow, it’s been a while since my last post……… I graduated from college last June, and since then I have been pretty busy and not really had the time or inclination to do any more transcriptions or analyses. But now the new year has arrived, I have to decided to focus once again on this blog, and also to expand the scope to transcriptions of other musicians (not that I am finished with Woody Shaw, he remains one of my favourite players and I am looking to transcribe some more of his solos soon). One trumpet player I have wanted to study in more detail is Louis Armstrong, and I have been working on several transcriptions which will be posted soon.

In case anyone is interested, here is the project I submitted for my course (it is heavily based on ideas from this blog). The project was marked my the saxophonists Martin Speake and Mark Lockheart, and I was very pleased to receive a mark of 75% for it.

dissertationwoody

Zoltan

I had a really great tutorial with Martin Speake yesterday in which we looked in depth at Woody’s tune Zoltan from the Unity album. I had been having trouble working out the chords for the middle 8, but with Martin’s help I have managed to work them out. Here is a lead sheet for the tune:

Zoltan

The tune opens with a march like theme taken from Zoltan Kodaly’s Hary Janos suite. This theme is a prime example of the lydian sound heard when the pentatonic scale based on the II is played over the I bass note – in this case, D pentatonic over C. The second theme of the tune, marked A on the lead sheet, switches to a latin feel but is harmonically similar, switching between a D pentatonic scale over C to a C pentatonic scale over B flat. This tune is in AABA form, and the solos are over this form. The B section is also comprised of lydian chords which appear fairly straight forward in the head – however, I was later confused by what Woody was playing in his solo. Here is a transcription of the solo:

Woody Shaw – Zoltan

(Warning: this solo is at B flat trumpet pitch, ie. one tone higher than it sounds)

What confused me was the fact that Woody was clearly playing phrases using bebop language outlining the chord of Eflat7 (concert) where I had reckoned the chord to be Gflat maj7#11 – see bars 17 and 49. However, Martin helped me to realise that the chord is still Gflat maj7#11, Woody is just superimposing fresh harmony on it. Here is an example of Woody using bebop language in the ‘wrong’ key to create a fresh sound. Joe Henderson also does this is his solo but in a more ‘inside’ manner – if you listen around 3’38 on the track he can be heard playing F7 bebop language over the chord Eflat maj7#11. Martin and I then proceeded to try out this idea on all of the lydian chords in the tune – firstly, Joe Henderson’s inside way using the bebop scale starting a tone above the root note (Woody also uses this idea – see bars 13 and 37), and then Woody’s more dissonant way using the bebop scale starting a minor third below the root note. In both cases, familiar bebop language is used in a different context to how it is normally used.

Woody does a few other interesting things on this tune. He consistently uses the A pentatonic scale over the Cmaj7#11 chord – this scale mostly fits but there is a clash between the C in the bass and the C# in the scale. In fact, the only time he uses the conventional approach to lydian chords seen in the head – using the pentatonic scale based on the note a tone above the root – is at bar 81 where he plays Aflat pentatonic over Gflat maj7#11 (concert pitches). This solo shows that Woody was not content to use the conventional pentatonic approach, he wanted to explore and discover new ways of incorporating dissonance. It also shows his respect for jazz language of the past and a willingness to incorporate it in fresh situations. There is much in this solo for me to explore further.

Transcriptions

Woody Shaw – There Will Never Be Another You

Woody Shaw – What Is This Thing Called Love

Here are the first two transcriptions to go up on my blog, There Will Never Be Another You from the 1986 album Solid, and What Is This Thing Called Love, from the 1981 album United. (The transcriptions are written at B flat pitch, ie one tone higher than they sound)

There Will Never Be Another You is played at a medium tempo and for much of his solo Woody outlines the changes without being too adventurous, concentrating on the melodic line and also his sound. He often uses a sharpened 4th to create a lydian sound, especially on Fma7 chords and the G7 found in the 13th bar of the form. He also makes use of the pentatonic scale based on the tritone of a dominant chord (see bar 49), sometimes combining it with more conventional dominant chord harmony to good effect (for example, bars 9 and 33). The last four bars of each chorus he plays are of great interest. In bar 30, he sets it up with a strong statement in the home key, before seemingly shifting up a semitone and outlining the key of F# major – over the II-V of A-7 – D7, he outlines G#-7 – C#7, a II-V in F#. This then resolves to the G-7 in the underlying harmony, but Woody soon returns to F# major which functions as a tritone substitution over the C7 chord to provide a resolution to the tonic key at bar 34, the start of the second chorus. The four bars at bar 62 are very similar – again, the first bar contains a strong statement in the tonic key before Woody outlines the chord C#7 in the second bar which resolves to an A# on the first beat of bar 64. This can however also be viewed as a B flat, the third of the underlying chord of G-7 , and Woody uses this as a pivot note, linking two harmonies, to return to ‘inside’ playing on the G-7 chord. This does not last long however, and over the next bar or so Woody outlines the tonality of B major, which then resolves to the tonic key of F major once again for the return to the start of the form.

What Is This Thing Called Love is played at a burning tempo, and, propelled in part by Mulgrew Miller’s harmonically ambiguous comping, Woody plays a lot more adventurously and ‘outside’ the harmony. Once again, he often uses the sharpened 4th to create a lydian sound especially over the Dmaj7 chords – on these he also uses the E pentatonic scale (for example, bars 6-7 and 49). In this solo, Woody also shows himself to be a master of more traditional bebop language, particularly towards the start of the solo. This is then developed into more complex pentatonic based language such as that seen in bars 38-41. At this point, Woody links together the pentatonic scales of E flat and B by use of a common tone or pivot note, E flat or D sharp. Neither of these chords fit with the underlying harmony, yet Woody manages to resolve on to a C# for the Dmaj7 chord in bar 41. Bar 71 shows a similar linking of the E flat and B pentatonic scales, as does bar 104. The phrase from bar 121 to 126 is particularly masterful, with Woody combining sequential playing with pentatonic ideas, wide intervallic leaps and chromatic movement all in the same phrase. Another important idea can be seen at bar 56 – here Woody anticipates the A7 chord by two beats. This anticipation of harmony is a device used frequently by Woody, and one I need to look at in more detail.

What points have I taken from these solos to incorporate into my own practice?

  • use of the tritone pentatonic over a V chord and the II pentatonic over a I chord
  • use of a sharpened 4th over tonic chords to create a lydian sound
  • substitution of different II-V’s to create a new sound (this is something I have been discussing with Martin Speake and will be writing more about later)
  • the use of a pivot note contained in two distinct harmonies to link the two together
  • juxtaposition of more traditional bebop language with more complex pentatonic and intervallic lines
  • the linking of pentatonic scales a major 3rd apart as a means to go ‘outside’ the harmony
  • the anticipation of chord changes

What have I been practicing?

One thing I have been working on is playing pentatonic scale exercises in all keys, trying to get the scales under my fingers. I have been trying to gain fluency in all the various intervals and shapes available within the scales. I have also been working on exercises linking together two pentatonic scales a semitone apart as this relationship can be used in many situations – for example, playing a D flat pentatonic over a G7 chord can resolve to either a C pentatonic on the I chord, or a D pentatonic, creating a lydian sound which Woody uses a lot. Following advice from Martin Speake, I have also begun to insert pentatonics at all points of a chord sequence – mostly on the blues so far but I aim to incorporate this approach playing on standards too.

I have also been transcribing a lot of Woody’s playing, and I have been trying to play his solos along with the records. From these solos I have been picking out areas of interest to work on further – for example, the use the pentatonic based on the II of a I chord to create a lydian sound. Here is a list of the solos I have transcribed so far and the albums they are on:

  • ‘Rosewood’ from Rosewood (1977)
  • ‘There Will Never Be Another You’ and ‘You Stepped Out Of A Dream’ from Solid (1986)
  • ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’ from United (1981)
  • ‘Sashianova’ from Little Red’s Fantasy (1976)

I am also working on a few more transcriptions. My next goal is to transcribe some of Woody’s playing from the 1960s when he was still in his teens and early 20s.

I have also recorded myself playing three tunes with a band – ‘There Will Never Be Another You’, ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’ and ‘In Case You Haven’t Heard’. I hope to post these online soon with transcription and analysis. These recordings should hopefully help me to highlight other areas I need to work on.